Sarah – Senior European Technical Affairs Engineer

If you would like a career where no two days are the same, you get to help customers, solve technical problems, and the possibility of running engineering-focused photoshoots read on…this could be the job for you!

What attracted you to this job?

The variety – no day is ever the same. 3M has more than 55,000 different products, ranging from Post-it Notes to pocket-sized projectors.

What does your typical day involve?

I work in our Health and Safety Products Division. 3M offers a range of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – these are products like hardhats, dust masks and safety goggles, which help to keep people safer at work. My job is to help our technical service teams across Europe provide technical support to our customers and advise on how to use the products correctly. I mostly work in the office but, about once a week, have a day out – often visiting customers, or one of our laboratories or manufacturing sites. I am also a specialist on the European Standards Committee for Protective Clothing, which means I get to travel – my last trip was to Seville in Spain, which was lovely. A typical day in the office would be a mix of phone calls, meetings, teleconferences, emails and preparing documents such as technical bulletins; CE certification packages, or product datasheets. I work very closely with colleagues in marketing, quality assurance, packaging, life cycle management, laboratory services, sourcing and legal, so get to work with a nice mix of people – and usually have lunch with the fellow engineers in our restaurant!

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Helping customers and solving complex technical problems.

What do your friends and family think about your job?

They wish their office had an on-site Starbucks and a gym, like we do. We also have our own train station and carriage – sadly, they are static exhibits!

Tell us more about your environment in terms of work-life balance

3M operates a flexi-time policy and I can also work from home some days, which makes it easier to maintain a good work-life balance. I also get a lot of support for charity work and STEM Ambassadors –we are allowed a day per year to take part in community projects on company time.

How did you get to where you are today?

I took A-levels in Chemistry, Biology and Geography and Maths AS before studying for a BSc in Chemistry at the University of Southampton. With 3M’s support I have also achieved some Health and Safety qualifications which relate to my current job.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of following your path?

Science subjects offer a huge range of careers, so are a good choice in terms of keeping your options open. Make sure you develop your transferable, ‘soft’ skills, such as communication and team working – they are just as important as qualifications for anyone applying for a STEM role in business.

How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for someone in your field, and how much can this be expected to rise?

Graduate salaries range from £23 – 26,000. I progressed quickly and was pleasantly surprised at how much STEM skills are valued. I also have a brand new company car, because my role is customer facing.

Out of ‘office hours’, what lights your fire?/ What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax?

My passion as a teenager was ballet and I still like to dance. My favourite new hobby has to be my motorbike – but I also enjoy sailing, cooking, golf, squash and running (although I am a bit rubbish at the last three!)

Have there been any embarrassing moments?

A few times a year we go on location to do photo shoots for our products, which is great fun. As the technical advisor, I have to follow the models and photographer and make sure the products are fitted correctly – we’ve been to all sorts of places from coal mines to pharmaceutical factories. I’m not particularly tall, which can be embarrassing when I can’t see the top of the models’ heads to see if the respirator straps are twisted!